If you’ve spent much time around orthopedics, tendon injuries are a way of life. Tears and strains affect individuals from all walks of life creating a continual push for new a better treatments. In recent years there has been a substantial murmur surrounding platelet-rich plasma therapy as a potential treatment of the injuries. While innovation is always exciting there appears to be some conflicting data coming back.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy or PRP is centered around the idea that growth factors from platelets will increase tissue healing. Tendons in particular are less vascularized and tend to heal slower than many other tissues of the body. The idea has been to use PRP to aid with partial tears, strains, and chronic tendinitis. It’s currently experimental but garnered press last year when two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers received PRP treatment prior to winning the Super Bowl. The original story in the February 16, 2009 edition of the New York Times cited some promising studies, but studies in recent months are bring the treatment into question.

In 2006 a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine outlined a study of 20 patients, 15 of which received PRP therapy. The patients receiving PRP noted a pain measurement improvement of 60% compared to 16% in the control group. However according to a March 19th 2009 article available on PubMed that used MRI’s to track postoperative healing after ACL surgery showed no difference between patients receiving PRP treatment and those receiving none. Additionally a recent article in the January 13th 2010 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association concerning the treatment of chronic Achilles tendon disorder found no measurable difference when compared with a placebo saline injection.

The disparity between studies would appear to indicate that further trials are needed before a conclusion can be reached as to the effectiveness of PRP in treating tendon related injuries.

Articles referenced

New York Times February 16, 2009 article

PubMed March 14, 2009

Medscape January 12, 2010